[sic] Magazine

Spectrals – Bad Penny

One-man riposte to the US hype machine Louis Jones , aka Spectrals , is an interesting character. Calling a nondescript town between Huddersfield, Bradford and Wakefield home, the 21-year-old opened his account on it-label Captured Tracks in late 2009 with the much-loved lo-fi doo-wop of “Leave Me Be”. Now with a slew of good-to-great 7”s, splits and EPs under his straining belt, the flame-haired, tight-trousered Jones has been remarkably prolific ever since.

The problem is then that in his eagerness to get his best material out there, his debut LP Bad Penny seems like a bit of a poor relation in comparison. No doubt the lad still knows his way around a decent pop hook, the likeable “Confetti” is full of them and its repeated “ going steady / … already ” rhyme sure brings a smile (if not the chipped teeth of yesteryear) to the face. Yet, minus his earlier material’s iconic reverb abuse, numerous parts of this sub-30-minute album are way too anonymous for their own good.

This said, Jones’s other trademarks are all still present and correct: that Yorkshire croon, 50s and 60s doo-wop/soul, pop, garage-rock and, of course, surf guitar – his brother Will’s budget drumming too. Newer to the mix though is a light jazziness, which, when it doesn’t work, musically renders some cuts (see the opener “Get A Grip”) like decades-old Hawaiian lobby music.

Marginally better is “You Don’t Have To Tell Me” in which a finger-clicking jazz underlay blends bongos with generally unremarkable indie stylings. Much better, “Luck Is There to Be Pushed” is altogether more sombre, its late-night vibe helping to temper some of Bad Penny ‘s sillier moments such as “Doing Time”, which brings to mind an idyllic 50s flashback full of chaste teenagers and jaunty escapades. At the other end of the spectrum, despite its crying fret work, “Lockjaw” is a bit of a non-event and “Many Happy Returns” also never really gets going, stalling periodically just to make sure.

Jones is as the very least moving in different spheres to most and he’s thus distinctive as a result, which, along with his willingness to evolve and dabble is commendable. One can’t help but pine though for Jones’s return to his bread and butter, because diamond–in-the-rough “Big Baby”, though clean, packs the required punch missing elsewhere on this rushed collection.

Advised downloads: “Confetti” and “Big Baby”.

~Bad Penny is out now on Wichita in the UK and Slumberland in the US.~

Spectrals @ myspace